A Who's Who of competitive sailing will face off tomorrow and Saturday at the Inner Harbor for the renewal of the Senator's Cup.
The regatta, which will be visible from the lawn at Fort McHenry, will feature six skippers - all of them America's Cup veterans - in one-on-one match racing in 35-foot sailboats.
"Spectators will be able to see the sailing qualities and intensity of America's Cup action right from the shoreline. The races will be quick and closely fought," said John A. Pica Jr., a former state senator and founder of the event.
The skippers are John Bertrand, a veteran of four America's Cup campaigns and a 1984 Olympic silver medalist; Terry Hutchinson, a three-time Cup sailor; Chris Larson, Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and a helmsman in the Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race; Dave Dellenbaugh, the helmsman and tactician aboard Cup winner America3; Cameron Appleton, a two-time Cup helmsman; and Dave Perry, a member of Sweden's 2007 Cup challenger. In addition, Gavin Brady, a four-time Cup veteran, will be on hand to help the race committee and act as an alternate.
Practice today starts at 2 p.m. and ends about 5 p.m. Tomorrow and Saturday, competition will begin about 10:30 a.m. Saturday's championship round - a best of five races - has a 2 p.m. start time.
A victory party, with an auction, will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Living Classrooms Foundation, 802 S. Caroline St. Proceeds will benefit the foundation, which serves at-risk children, and Special Olympics of Maryland.
In addition, the skippers will sail a match race at noon Saturday with Special Olympics athletes as crew members.
Race director Dobbs Davis said wind conditions permitting, the course will be set so that spectators can see the action from several spots, including Fort McHenry and Canton Waterfront Park.
"Match racing is the most exciting racing there is. It's like singles tennis, with each boat waiting to pounce on a mistake by the other," he said.
The Senator's Cup began 17 years ago as a friendly competition and picnic with a starting line right off Harrison's Pier Five restaurant. Pica, a competitive racer in the Baltimore City Yacht Association, said he wanted something that would raise the profile of local sailing.
The inaugural event was won by Mark Fischer, with runner-up Pica earning a dunk in the icy-cold waters. Pica came back to win the regatta in 1994 and 1995. Hutchinson, Larson and Brady - who all call the Annapolis area home - have all won the event.
For several years, the race made its home in the waters off Annapolis, then was discontinued because of business and personal obligations, Pica said.
With the Volvo Ocean Race abandoning Baltimore and Annapolis for Boston, the time was right to revive the Cup and bring it back to the Inner Harbor, Davis said.
"John [Pica] and I want to expand this into a larger event, one that will eventually become a world-class competition," Davis said. "We think Baltimore can support that, and we hope this year's event plants the seeds for success."
Regatta results can be viewed at www.senatorscup.com or on MASN.